Fairbanks, Alaska - Over the weekend, six new sculptures were installed outside the University of Alaska Museum of the North. Local artists created the works in conjunction with a new special exhibit.
On any other day, Fairbanks resident John Bohning is a carpenter, but today he’s an artist. He uses a hammer to pound stakes into the ground. They hold up a giant sculpture he created to stand just outside the front door of the Museum of the North. “I got about a six-foot diameter still ring that I cut polar bear prints in a continuous path around, trying to give a little motion.” 12-foot tall, carved aspen poles hold up the giant steel ring. Bohning cast bronze tips and fastened them to the tops of the poles. They look like long, tall spears. “I don’t know much about Native histories," he says, "but they would lay out on the ice under a seal skin and wait for a polar bear to come and then deal with it and that’s just amazing to me.”
Bohning’s is one of six new pieces installed as part of the Museum’s new special exhibit on the Research Vessel Sikuliaq: an ice capable ship slated to set sail in the Arctic for scientific research next year. Bohning gave his piece an Inupiat name meaning ‘to bring ashore.’
That’s what Theresa Bakker had hoped for. She’s the Museum’s Media Coordinator. She says the she and colleagues put out a call for artwork that highlights the creative side of science. “We thought that would be a good combination with the exhibit, since it’s all about using the ship to be able to explore the Arctic and places we haven’t been able to reach before," she says. "We wondered what would an artist think about that and how would an artist interpret that idea? Science itself is very creative and we wanted to celebrate that a bit and to show that this isn’t just labs and precise data. Some of this is ingenuity and curiosity and the same things that artist use to do their work.”
Nearby, Scott Holladay puts the finishing touches on his piece. It’s a giant iron wave, rusty in color. Dark gray and silver barnacles and fish are welded to the sides. “I usually build furniture, so this is sometimes a stretch, but you don’t get a chance to have something in front of a museum very often, if ever,” says Holladay.
The new sculptures will stand outside the museum for the next year. All of them come from artists local to the Fairbanks area. Some are also students at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.